How we feel in life basically has to do with our “brain chemicals” These chemicals are called neurotransmitters. Although we don’t have a way to measure how much you have when giving diagnosis, scientist do know that certain chemicals create specific feelings. Sadness, anxiety, excitement…all these feelings are produced by neurotransmitters.
How much or how little of these chemicals are produced depends on a lot of different things. Genetics, environment, past experiences, and diet to name a few.
The good news is that we can do things, on purpose, to help our body out in creating some of these chemicals. Try to do at least one of the following suggestions, everyday.
Eat organic yogurt. We’re talking about “brain chemicals” but the truth is that most of these hormones are in the lining of our stomach. The health of our stomach greatly affects our mood. Think about it. When you have a “bad” feeling, or feel nervous, what part of your body do you feel it most? It’s usually the stomach.
Probiotics and prebiotics help keep our gut healthy. Drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in fiber to keep your gut healthy.
Give or get a hug. When you give a long hug to someone that you really care about, and you get that warm loving feeling, the neurotransmitter oxytocin is released. Basically, physically intimate moments releases this hormone. This chemical calms down the amygdala, the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when we think we’re in danger. Oxytocin has been called the “bonding hormone” or “love hormone” because it makes you feel closer to people.
For women, oxytocin helps in contractions when giving birth and it’s released during breast feeding.
Shock yourself with cold water. Either splash your face with cold water if you’re at school or work, or turn the water to cold at the end of your shower. The cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, a nerve that goes from our head all the way down to the gut. It helps regulate a bunch of bodily functions like the heart, lungs, upper digestive tract, and other organs of the chest and abdomen.
Reminisce about happy times. Remembering happy memories helps increase serotonin. Serotonin does a bunch of things like helping neurons communicate with each other, improve memory, and most popularly known for increasing our mood. Anti-depressants (SSRI, which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) is supposed to help our brain “lock in” the serotonin that we already have by preventing it from “fading away” (This is my explanation of it, not the scientific explanation.)
Watch a comedy. There’s a reason for the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. I completely agree with this. When we laugh we release several hormones responsible for releasing stress and tension and making us feel good, including serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.
Create small, challenging goals for yourself. Remember when you finished up a presentation you worked hard to prepare for, graduated from school after all those years, or completed a challenge you set for yourself? That small rush of pleasure was your brain releasing dopamine, the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure.
Try setting goals that challenge you in some way. It could be something as simple as cleaning up a messy room, or bigger goals like getting a new job, or getting fit.
Write down how you feel. Writing doesn’t necessarily release hormones, but it does calm down the mind. You could journal, or write short stories. A study done at the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that writing calms down amygdala activity. As I said before, the amygdala is the part of our brain that acts like an alarm when it thinks we’re in danger. Our brain can’t tell if something is real or you’re imagining it. That’s why just thinking about certain things will cause you to feel stressed and activates the amygdala.
None of us can feel happy all of the time. But staying positive and healthy will help you feel more satisfied with your life. And when you feel satisfied with your life, everyone around you benefits.
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About the author.
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in Lehigh Valley, PA.